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Overborrowing and undersaving: lessons and policy implications from research in behavioral economics

Author

Listed:
  • Marques Benton
  • Stephan Meier
  • Charles Sprenger

Abstract

The U.S. household carries over $7,500 in uncollateralized debt and likely saves at a negative rate. There is a growing body of evidence that this borrowing and saving behavior may not, as assumed by standard economics, be the product of rational financial planning. This paper discusses insights from behavioral economics on how self-control problems could play a crucial role in determining such financial outcomes. It is important to note that self-control problems, as defined in this paper, are thought of as an issue affecting all people, not just those involved in our specific research. ; The paper reports results from a field study targeted to low-to-moderate income individuals conducted in Dorchester, MA. It links measured self-control to borrowing and savings outcomes taken from individual credit reports and survey questions respectively. We find that self-control problems are associated with higher borrowing, specifically on credit cards, and lower savings of income tax refunds. The paper discusses how policy prescriptions built around addressing self-control issues could prove helpful in improving financial outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Marques Benton & Stephan Meier & Charles Sprenger, 2007. "Overborrowing and undersaving: lessons and policy implications from research in behavioral economics," Public and Community Affairs Discussion Papers 2007-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbpc:2007-4
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    File URL: http://www.bostonfed.org/commdev/pcadp/2007/pcadp0704.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Federico Favaretto & Donato Masciandaro, 2014. "Behavioral Economics and Monetary Policy," BAFFI CAREFIN Working Papers 1501, BAFFI CAREFIN, Centre for Applied Research on International Markets Banking Finance and Regulation, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.
    2. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2013. "Borrowing High vs. Borrowing Higher: Sources and Consequences of Dispersion in Individual Borrowing Costs," NBER Working Papers 19069, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Doi, Yoko & McKenzie, David & Zia, Bilal, 2014. "Who you train matters: Identifying combined effects of financial education on migrant households," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 39-55.

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    Keywords

    Consumer credit ; Saving and investment;

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